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DJ Mag's top 50 tracks of 2019

2019 saw dancefloors embracing fast, syncopated and experimental rhythms, with jungle breaks and sounds from the Global South invigorating DJs and producers across the genre spectrum. Below, you’ll find our round-up of the 50 biggest tracks of the year

Dancefloor trends come and go. Familiar genre tropes, motifs and tempos reinstate themselves as dominant themes in clubs and festivals big and small, while inventive styles from scenes across the globe emerge and evolve to invigorate those classic sounds, and push dance music into new directions. 

In 2019, fast, syncopated, and experimental rhythms came to the fore, with rapid jungle breaks and percussive styles from throughout the Global South informing much of what we’d lose ourselves to on the dancefloor, time and time again. As sets sped up, with 140bpm bass maneuvers and 160bpm screamers being the key ingredient in some of dance music’s most memorable moments, an ecstatic silliness and flair also took hold. While there was no shortage of dark, heads-down slammers, it was the radiant, colourful and unexpected curveballs that stood out most.

Below, you’ll find our round-up of the 50 biggest tracks of the year. With over 10,000 tracks a week released on Beatport, and countless others shared on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and vinyl-only imprints, it’s impossible to rank an entire year’s worth of dance music, nor should you feel overly compelled to. These 50 tracks provide a snapshot of 2019’s most exciting dancefloor sounds, as well as a look at what’s been on constant rotation on the DJ Mag office stereo in 2019. Dig in.

Big Miz 'International Swayers Anthem'

Purveyor of acid lines and undeniable groove, Glasgow’s Big Miz joined fellow DJ/producer Monki’s Monki & Friends imprint with a two-track EP earlier this year, featuring William Djoko on the flip. Although the clue is in the title, Big Miz’s signature funk-infused rhythms and house sentiments make for a carefully curated genre-crossover. Amy Fielding

Justin Unabomber 'C’mon'

Sleazy and stomping, Manchester don Justin Unabomber has distilled onto record the sexy-but-rabid vibe of peak time at the Electric Chair parties he co-founded with partner in crime Luke. Call it acid disco, call it electro-house, whatever the label, it’s ever-growing intensity is inescapable. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Colin Dale 'The Guiding Light'

One of London’s most influential DJs since the 1980s, Dale’s Abstrakt Dance radio show on Kiss was a vital snapshot of techno and leftfield electronic music. Less known for his production, ‘The Guiding Light’ was a very welcome surprise from Dale in 2019: a lysergic house cut with effective percussion, acid bass and a suitably mystic lead line. Ben Murphy

Bonobo 'Ibrik'

Inseparable from the album that carried it — ‘fabric presents Bonobo’ — while the producer’s lack of longstanding relationship with the institution meant the full release baffled some at the time, this tune proves he fits. Stunning detail meets pared-back production ethic, making for a track deserving of Room One’s sound. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Amit 'Knuckle Duster'

Turning 25 this year, Metalheadz once again dropped a shedload of high-end d&b, but this absolute clobberer from Amit — though it flew under the radar somewhat — was the highlight for us. Showing exactly why he’s the OG of dubby, obsidian halftime, the Amar boss matched stomping kicks with dangerous levels of rolling sub-bass and a phasing, machine-gun synth line. Pure screwface material. Ben Hindle

Bala Bala Boyz 'Baza Ba Skivere'

Six-piece, London-based Congolese MC collective Bala Bala Boyz have had a breakthrough year in 2019, delivering blistering live sets from the dancefloor at Hyperdub's Thursday club night Ø and Boiler Room Festival's bass day, amongst many others. 'Baza Ba Skivere' is their biggest track to date, delivered in a combination of Lingala and English that they dub “Linglish” — on top of production by Kallida festival founder Reuben G. The club-friendly cut was also a highlight in the expansive release schedule of DJ Mag Best of British awards Breakthrough Label nominee, More Time Records. Rob McCallum

Coco Bryce 'Wish We Didn’t'

Though it was the eerie murk of ‘Night On Earth’ that featured as the title track for Coco Bryce’s excellent 2019 album, ‘Wish We Didn’t’ quickly became the pick amongst fans and DJs. A superb centrepiece for the LP, a casual breakbeat is paired with a pitched-up vocal to blissful effect. Simple, laidback brilliance and Bryce at his best. Ben Hindle

Leila Samir 'Anxiety'

From an EP was top of DJ Mag’s Killers of the Month section in September, ‘Anxiety’ saw NTS and Worldwide FM affiliate Leila Samir offer up an intensely claustrophobic experience full of thundering percussion and spine-tingling chimes. A strong debut for the Saudi Arabian producer and another big tick for one of the UK’s most promising young labels. Ben Hindle

Yuksek 'I Don’t Have A Drum Machine'

In recent years French producer Yuksek’s transformation from blog house enfant terrible to disco don has been remarkable. ‘I Don’t Have A Drum Machine’ showed anyone who wasn’t paying attention his command of classic mirror-ball manoeuvres: a strutting mix of classic samples, thumping kicks and a fun spoken word sample that proved disco’s evergreen appeal on the floor. Ben Murphy

Cinthie 'Australian Summer'

Those glittering chimes, reflective string refrains and padded drums. ‘Australian Summer’ is among the year’s most uplifting electronic moments, arriving on Cinthie’s own imprint, launched in 2018 as a place to showcase the boss’ less obvious musical explorations. You can hear the vintage kit on this 80s electro-pop homage. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Finn 'Do What You Want Forever'

Listen, who among us isn’t a sucker for soulful vocal sample bouncing on top of an uplifting beat? In the final chapter of his Local Action EP trilogy, Manchester’s Finn displays the same ear for a colourful melody as on its predecessors, only this time the mood is brighter. Where ‘Sometimes The Going Gets A Little Tough’ and ‘Dance Music Has Betrayed Us All’ were bittersweet anthems of snappy, garage-imbued house, the title track here radiates with optimism and hope thanks to its addictive vocal hook, bouncy rhythm and crisp guitar sample. Eoin Murray

Kornél Kovács 'Marathon'

On ‘Stockholm Marathon’, Kornél Kovács leaned further into pop than ever before, bringing plenty of technicolor melodies and silky rhythms to his distinguished brand of house music. ‘Marathon’, which features vocals from Swedish pop duo ‘Rebecca & Fiona’, is smooth and buoyant. It lingers in the mind like a deep house smash circa 2013, without the irritating grandiosity, and with just a touch of melancholy. Eoin Murray

Air Max 97 feat. TSVI 'Paroxysm'

Our Killer of the Month when the 'Falling Not Walking' EP landed in June, 'Paroxysm', made in collaboration with Nervous Horizon boss, TSVI, is perhaps the nearest thing to straight-up club-track on the release — a sci-fi-injected nod to hard drum. It's also an inspired example of the free-wheeling club music that's been tearing up UK dancefloors all year. Rob McCallum

AQXDM 'Infrared'

Aquarian and Deapmash’s ‘Infrared’ EP pushed the sonic frontiers of rave, jungle and techno with monumental results, drawing from the wells of each genre’s history, but creating something that was futuristic and forward-thinking. The title track, which has garnered support from the likes of Aphex Twin, erupts like a flare with its ricocheting rhythm and dizzying layers of distortion. If ever there was a track to represent the heavy exhale that thrusts you into the night’s next euphoric phase, it would be this one. Eoin Murray

KiNK 'To Love You'

Occupying pole position on the ‘Piano Power’ EP, ‘To Love You’ makes no secret of its debt to the song-craft of classic ivory-fuelled house. Euphoric stuff, not least when the rolling breaks kick in, turning nastier with that hoover, it’s more evidence of how timeless KiNK’s work is. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Midland 'Frequency FM'

Following a few years away from production, Graded boss Midland returned in late 2019 with an EP of whimsical house that reminded us exactly why he was so sorely missed. Our pick, ‘Frequency FM’, took a turn a sharp left turn from his usual path, scattering IDM-style break clusters amongst a jaunty, daydream melody and warm kicks, resulting in a mildly psychedelic and wholly fun track that’s guaranteed to get an ID request every time. Ben Hindle

Prospa 'Intended'

You could write a book on the number of times that “Believe it’s what God intended” sample has been used. An iconic hardcore vocal hook screaming ‘old school’, nevertheless ‘Intended’ is unarguably fresh, it’s lackadaisical stepping kicks and compressed snares sat beneath soaring synth waves, creating broken rave-y joy. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Session Victim & Nebraska 'Dawn'

A live act made for sunset moments at faraway sessions, Session Victim kicked off another busy year by bringing exotic deep house hues into our bleak mid-winter, collaborating with often-unsung UK head Nebraska on a lilting, percussion-packed groover that’ll be keeping us warm well into next spring. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Fracture 'Big Up The Ladies'

2019 was a gargantuan year for Fracture’s Astrophonica label, with the release of October’s 160 acid/electro ‘Turbo’ comp the icing on the cake. The first big hit of the year came from the boss himself, though; referencing hardcore, halftime and techno, the track’s four-to-the-floor punch set the tone for the year ahead, while its eponymous hook made it a sing-along favourite amongst clubbers. Ben Hindle

Lauren Flax '(You Have To) Work'

After memorable acid tracks on Nervous and Unknown To The Unknown, Brooklyn’s excellent Lauren Flax brought the 303 pressure to Bunker’s label with ‘You Have To Work’. A propulsive jack track with astutely placed bleeps and irresistible drum machine funk, it proved how simple ingredients, combined just so, can be devastating. Ben Murphy

object blue 'Ecstasy Of Saint Teresa'

2019 saw object blue’s star continuing to rise. Written during a sudden flurry of creativity around the time she met her now wife, ‘FIGURE BESIDE ME’ offers the most personal, emotional music the experimental electronic artist has released to date. ‘Ecstasy Of Saint Teresa’ introduces itself with a subtle vocal sound, warped and skittery, before sizzling electronic strands, humming sub-bass and propulsive techno kicks coalesce into something euphoric and whole. Eoin Murray

Patrick Topping 'Turbo Time'

Released on his newly-minted label Trick, ‘Turbo Time’ found Patrick Topping stepping back from the tech-house with which he made his name in favour of a classic dance sound. Nodding to freestyle, boogie and late ’80s house, its unstoppable bubbling bass, orchestral synth hits and cool female vocal made it club catnip. Ben Murphy

Denis Sulta 'Matthew Keeps Me Pirrie'

Released as a single from Denis Sulta’s extended EP, ‘Aye Spoake Te Sumwuhn & They Listenhd’, on Ninja Tune, ‘Matthew Keeps Me Pirrie’ is just as emotive as it is abrasive. In Sulta's words a "celebration of the realization of what it is to be yourself, or at least, whoever you are in that moment", smooth, euphoric synth glides over sharp hats, with the Glaswegian mainstay’s signature, off-kilter rhythms dipping in and out of focus. Amy Fielding

Powder 'New Tribe'

On Powder’s compilation and mix for Tim Sweeney’s Beats In Space series, Powder included two of her own tracks: ‘Gift’, a gentle swooner, and ‘New Tribe’, a lively forward march of snares and chimes, chants and acid lines. “‘New Tribe’ was about people who just try to live like themselves in this crazily globalized society,” she told DJ Mag earlier this year, “people who then become their own tribe.” The accompanying music video is also a 2019 standout - an animated trip through Tokyo’s cityscape, full of bouncing creatures and escapist moments, it matches the chaotic fun of the track. Lauren Martin

Scratcha DVA & Lady Lykez 'Muhammad Ali'

The lead track on North London MC, Lady Lykez' 'Muhammad Ali' EP features production that crosses high energy dancehall with hard drum from Hyperdub affiliate Scratcha DVA, under his Scratchclart alias. With a guest appearance from Lioness, the track also sees two powerhouse MCs spray a relentless back-to-back delivery of intense vocal flow. Rob McCallum

Elliot Adamson 'Electric Acid Tater Tots'

Unstoppable is just one of the many words you could use to describe Newcastle-based DJ and producer, Elliot Adamson. Launching his own IDEA label in 2018 and releasing no less than three full-length albums since the fact, ‘Electric Acid Tater Tots’ on Patrick Topping’s Trick imprint showcased his more obnoxious production style, presenting an acid-tinged take on tech house, laced with his own distorted vocals. Amy Fielding

Skee Mask 'Trackheadz'

Released on Ilian Tape in February on the '808BB' EP, 'Trackheadz' is a huge club track from Skee Mask. Following his masterful 'Compro' LP from 2018, it's further proof of why Skee Mask is one of the most revered, distinct producers around. Rob Mccallum

Photonz 'Angel Heart'

The title may seem sweet, but Photonz’s Angel Heart is a creepy beast. The lead track from the EP of the same name, Angel Heart came out on Lisbon label Naive this summer, a prelude to his excellent solo album, ‘Nuit’. Stepping out from the Naive frame of those more romantic, acid-tinged house tracks, Angel Heart goes dark and heavy. Blending ominous electro synth lines, spacious, rolling drum & bass and heaving techno kicks with a lilting piano line, Angel Heart is razor sharp. One of Photonz’s best. Lauren Martin

Rebuke 'Rattle'

Irish breakthrough producer Reuben Keeney’s ‘Rattle’ may have made a feature of its weird, clattering sound design, but the real reason this big room techno beast proved such a dancefloor hit was its relentlessly driving acid riff. With classic house synth stabs and a kinetic rhythm, ‘Rattle’ was the sound dominating the largest floors in 2019. Ben Murphy

East End Dubs 'bRave'

A mysterious DJ and producer fully immersed in London’s ever-bubbling minimal underground, East End Dubs served up one of this year’s biggest tracks in the form of ‘bRave’. Released as part of a four-track EP on Enzo Siragusa’s FUSE London label, the rolling, warped bassline embodies the atmosphere of early mornings spent in the capital’s home of minimal tech and house, 93 Feet East. Amy Fielding

Danny Tenaglia 'Don’t Turn Your Back (Paradise Mix)'

Oft-cited as the DJs’ DJ, Danny Tenaglia doesn’t release music very often, so when he does it’s often a landmark event. And for ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’ to be released on Jamie Jones’ scene-leading Hot Creations label added to the significance. A dusty tribal chugger that recalls Tenaglia’s releases on Hooj Choons and the like two decades ago, the question is: does it signal a return for tribal house to dancefloors in 2020? Carl Loben

Thugwidow 'A Cluster Of Repeating Angry Thoughts'

Thugwidow has been plugging away for a few years now, dropping EPs and a shedload of albums on various digital labels. To be honest, though, it’s madness that he hasn’t been snapped up by a bigger outlet sooner. His EP for Western Lore, which this track features on, showcases everything that’s great about the Manchester producer’s sound: mangled, mind-bending breaks and cosmic washes that swamp each track in emotive atmospherics. Ben Hindle

Peggy Gou 'Starry Night'

It’s hard to imagine anyone not running into this one on a dancefloor this year. If that floor was outside and covered in sand the cut, on her own Gudu imprint, makes more sense. Bouncing pianos, sharp hi-hats and crisp handclaps combine to give us an upfront house anthem. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

The Chemical Brothers 'Got To Keep On'

In which the Chems eschew the bombastic brilliance of much of their beats-driven output in favour of a breezy slab of uplifting disco-funk. “Got to keep on making me high...” runs the vocal, offset by gorgeous cooing from the female chanteuse. But it wouldn’t be the Chems if they didn’t freak a few heads too, which the helicopter propellor FX and Christmas-y sleigh-bells properly saw to. Carl Loben

Octo Octa 'I Need You'

In the last few years, Octo Octa’s sound has grown up. It’s still playful, full of joy and surprise, but her sense of melodies and arrangements have become keener, and she really came into her own on ‘I Need You’, from her ‘For Lovers’ EP on Technicolor in March. A hint of what was to come with her album on T4T LUV NRG, Resonant Body, the track is now-classic Octo Octa: all soaring pads and dusty breaks, gently layered piano riffs and romantic refrains. The hints of ’90s rave are strong here, but Octo Octa write love notes to the past from the present rather than trying to wring out familiar tropes. Gently euphoric, it’s one for holding hands on the dancefloor. Lauren Martin

Djrum 'Tournesol'

Djrum returned to R&S with his first solo output since 2018’s superb ‘Portraits With Firewood’ LP. ‘Tournesol’ showed he hadn’t lost any of what makes Djrum’s music so enjoyable — if anything he’d returned to the more fun vibes of his 2nd Drop past, but adapted them to the sound palette of his modern output. Three tracks in one: Playful microfunk leads into psychedelic 170bpm techno, before a raging jungle finish. Expertly produced AND value for money, what more could you ask for? Ben Hindle

Róisín Murphy 'Incapable'

The former Moloko singer turned out this beatific soulful house ditty in the summer of 2019, instantly wowing her older demographic fanbase with its classic sounds. Part slo-mo disco, part hypnotic deep house, with music produced by long-term collaborator Richard Barratt, aka Crooked Man, ‘Incapable’ seems celebratory at first (“Never had a broken heart”) before the chorus hits. “Am I incapable of love... I’m unavailable for love,” she breezes, melting hearts and early-doors dancefloors in the process. Carl Loben

Ilana Bryne 'Dub Box Medicine'

In February, American producer Ilana Bryne released her debut EP on Naive, the label run by Lisbon’s Violet. Very much in the spirit of Naive to date, Bryne’s Low ‘Earth Orbit’ EP puts some twists on the breaks-led house sound that dominated 2019, with some spacious dubby refrains. Stylistically, it draws connections between the psychedelic house scene in the American Midwest, and the junglist rave roots of the UK. The EPs lead track, ‘Dub Box Medicine’, is powered by a sampled vocal line from David Rodigan, who speaks about power: of dub, of intoxication, the ecstatic experience of the rave. Breaks-led house got more colourful and romantic this year, and this track is neat example of how. Lauren Martin

Laurent Garnier & Chambray 'Feelin’ Good’

The French techno maestro hadn’t put out any music for well over two years, so this was a much-anticipated return — and it didn’t disappoint. Teaming up with Berlin-based Chambray on the original, metronomic beats are soon joined by a muted cowbell and a rasping, synapse-burrowing b-line until exultant-yet-melancholic keys join the fray — think ‘Strings Of Life’ or Layo & Bushwacka’s ‘Love Story’. An instant classic, it was further enhanced by two inventive remixes by Rekids boss Radio Slave. Carl Loben

DJ Lag x Beyonce 'My Power'

A strong contendor for the most unlikely collaboration of 2019 comes from 'My Power', which saw Beyoncé work with Tierra Whack, South African gqom artist, DJ Lag, Moonchild Sanelly, Busiswa, and Yemi Alade. Part of the Lion King remake soundtrack, Bey said of the music in an interview after its release, “This soundtrack is a love-letter to Africa, and I wanted to make sure that we found the best talent from Africa.” A raw slice of gqom with undulating low end, the track's title sums up its energy perfectly, as Beyoncé spits bars about being "ready for war" at its mid point. Rob Mccallum

Joy Overmono 'Bromley'

Released at the tail end of the year, the A-side to the debut Joy Overmono EP is named after the London borough where the duo of Tessela and Truss, known together as Overmono, worked in the studio for their first release with Joy O. A big subject of diggers attempting to ID the track through summer, it begins as a delicate percussive workout that signals that something much larger beckons. When the stuttering vocals finally break the tension at the midpoint, it's game time for the decade's last club anthem. Rob McCallum

Paranoid London 'Vicious Games'

This was the year that Paranoid London finally broke their media silence, giving interviews for the first time ahead of the release of second album, ‘PL’. ‘Vicious Games’ preceded it as a single, mainstays Quinn Whalley and Gerardo Delgardo calling on Josh Caffe to vocal an achingly mournful paean to relationship messiness. Dreamy synths offset the melancholic vocal, which stutters and spurts more as it reaches an unspecified conclusion. Carl Loben

India Jordan 'Warper'

A new star rose in 2019 and their name is India Jordan. Born in Doncaster and based in London, Jordan’s debut EP ‘DNT STP MY LV’ landed on Local Action in May, an imprint with a history of supporting cutting-edge UK talent like DJ Q, Slackk and Finn. With follow-up cut ‘Warper’, which landed in September, Jordan created a certified dancefloor anthem, harnessing the energy of speed garage, with vicious hats, wobbling bass and a shitload of attitude. Huge. Rob McCallum

Solardo & Eli Brown 'XTC'

Solardo went from strength to strength this year, aided considerably by this tech-house banger. Produced with Eli Brown, there’s an undeniably old school vibe to ‘XTC’ that makes it irresistible. Old hardcore stabs, pretty little fills and the “Shining in the ecstasy” vocal that’s seemingly culled from a rave classic, this single by the Manchester boys made the BBC Radio 1 playlist and jumped into the charts on release in the summer. Carl Loben

DJ Bogdan 'Love Inna Basement (Midnight XTC)'

Seemingly omnipresent on festival soundsystems throughout summer, DJ Bogdan's 'Love Inna Basement' was presented as the "inspiration" behind Objekt's 2018 smash 'Theme From Q' when it landed on white label in July. Supposedly taken from the fictional Berlin nightclub owner's '92 Berlin hardcore tape, the 'Midnite XTC' mix — built on Korg bass, eerie pads and arena-sized hardcore stabs — runs dangerously close to pastiche. However, Objekt, the true mastermind behind the track, knows exactly how to ride the lines. Pure dancefloor ecstasy every time. Rob McCallum

Anz 'No Harm'

Anz has had an absolute belter of a year. Time and again the Manchester upstart has proved herself not just one to watch, but to glue your friggin’ eyeballs. Her ‘Invitation 2 Dance’ EP for Finn’s 2 B Real presented four club killers, but ‘No Harm’ took the biscuit. Essentially three tunes in one, instantly recognisable glistening plucks lead into funky Mario Kart vibes, before a ruffneck break finishes things off. As fun as they come, and with way more fire in the tank (check her 100% production mix), expect Anz to be a regular feature in these pages, and many a DJ set, from now on. Ben Hindle

Kano 'Class Of Deja'

With 'Class of Deja' — the centrepiece of the 18-minute video that introduced Kano’s first album since 2016’s seminal grime LP, 'Made in the Manor' — racking up nearly a million plays on YouTube, the impact of 'Hoodies All Summer' shows the momentum Kano maintains 16 years after his first release. Performing the pirate radio-mirroring, one-mic delivery of the track with D Double E and Ghetts at Royal Albert Hall in October was a bold move. A performance that affirmed his place at live music’s top table, and that a huge year is beckoning in 2020. Rob McCallum

Special Request 'Vortex 150'

Paul Woolford’s beats-driven Special Request project rinsed it this year with a colossal four albums of twisted breakbeat science. ‘Vortex 150’, from the ‘Vortex’ album, skittered along in the intro on a bed of metallic ballbearings — with a hint of his own ‘Erotic Discourse’ about it — before detonating into an intricate polyrhythmic gallop. Intersecting the beats and techno worlds, ‘Vortex 150’ — essentially a curveball DJ tool — found its way into a slew of DJ mixes as the year unfolded. Carl Loben

Maceo Plex 'When The Lights Are Out (Late Night Mix)'

Eric Estornel is one of the most talented producers around, whether he’s making intricate dance tracks as Maceo Plex or more leftfield techno and electro as Mariel Ito for R&S. On his most accessible track to date, he employs deep mournful pads and a melancholic female vocal to devastating effect, depth-charged bass pulses and tinkling hi-hats, getting praise from Sasha and Pete Tong, and even appearing on Eastenders! A summer anthem for years to come. Carl Loben

KH 'Only Human'

Kieran Hebden can seemingly do no wrong. While ‘Teenage Birdsong’ bathed listeners in warm electronic bliss in 2019, ‘Only Human’ took a more rustic course. Organic motorik percussion unfolds into some delightful multi-tracked chanting that’s actually a sample of Nelly Furtado (who Four Tet sampled previously), whisked up into what comes across like an echo-tuned playground chant. Recalling some tribal tracks of the late ‘90s, it was quickly picked up by festival DJs over the summer and amplified by Ministry Of Sound. Carl Loben